We sat down with Kristiina Tuukkanen, a researcher in Fazer’s innovation and research unit Fazer Lab, and a cereal technologist, M.Sc. (Food Science and Technology), to get an insight into the Fazer Lab. Kristiina is involved in various research projects and supports the product and marketing teams in the development of new products.
“Our current interests include solutions that would allow us to reduce the amount of sodium chloride—or salt that’s harmful for health—in bread, without compromising on taste. Solutions of this kind can prove very significant for public health. It has been estimated that some 20% of our daily intake of salt derives from bread, so by reducing the amount of salt in bread, we can reduce the intake of salt harmful to human health to a significant degree. This brings a practical, important aspect to our work when it one day ends up on people’s tables, which is a greatly motivating factor in our daily work,” says Kristiina.
As part of her work, Kristiina also instructs future food scientists in their master’s theses. She has time to participate in the work of approximately three master’s theses a year and has already been involved in a variety of interesting projects. Fazer typically gives promising students suggestions on a topic for their master’s thesis from a field supporting one of Fazer’s topical research themes.
Did you know?
Some 20% of cocoa mass is fibre. The precise proportion of fibre depends on the growth conditions of the cocoa tree. The cocoa from western Africa is slightly higher in fibre than South American cocoa. The Fazer 70% Pure Dark chocolate contains 12% of dietary fibre. And for those with a delicate stomach: the fibre in dark chocolate is also well suited for a FODMAP diet.
Salt and chocolate fibres
Fazer is a versatile food company providing, among other things, bakery and confectionery products and plant-based foods in northern Europe. For many Finns, however, Fazer is still the home of the beloved chocolate of theirs. It is therefore no big surprise that, in addition to salt and sugar, Fazer researches chocolate.
And there is indeed plenty to study in cocoa and dark chocolate. The latter contains several nutrients that promote well-being—magnesium, the flavanols in cocoa and potassium—but what many of us are not aware of is that dark chocolate is also rich in fibre and therefore apt to promote well-being. The microbiota in our guts need dietary fibre for nutrition and to stay healthy, and healthy intestines also communicate their well-being to the brain, impacting the whole body. A sufficient intake of fibres has also been found to prevent the risk of certain diseases such as type 2 diabetes. And here is some good news for chocolate lovers: dark chocolate contains as much dietary fibre as rye bread.
“We also carried out clinical research in cooperation with the gerontological nutrition society Gery, in which the subjects aged 65–75 ate 50g of dark chocolate every day for a period of eight weeks. The study found that this daily amount did not have a negative effect on weight or blood lipid levels. In moderation, you can therefore eat dark chocolate with a good conscience,” says Kristiina.
Chocolate’s nutritious and beneficial properties fascinate researchers as well. Fazer has been active on the front of chocolate research and taken part in a variety of chocolate studies. In the summer of 2018, Kristiina also instructed a master’s thesis on the subject brought about in collaboration between Fazer and the University of Helsinki.
“Preparing a master’s thesis for Fazer was rewarding work in many ways. The subject matter itself was delicious and I learned an enormous amount about the texture of cocoa and chocolate. In addition to that, though, I also learned how to lead a project, which is sure to prove useful in the future. The cooperation between Fazer and the university was smooth and the instruction I received from both was excellent,” says Maijuleena Salminen, who was responsible for the thesis. She now has an M.Sc. in food science.
“It’s always inspiring to work with young scientists just starting their career. The people working on their master’s theses don’t just provide us with good basic research, but bring fresh perspectives, too,” says Kristiina.